Monday, June 9, 2014

Cardiff, a Wales of a Town

We started fresh and eager to greet the day with a full Welsh breakfast this morning in the lovely dining room of our Victorian hotel. The breakfast was great, but a little too hearty. The bacon was more like ham, and there were enough sausages, beans, eggs and toast to sustain us till late afternoon.

We caught the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus in front of the Castle for a quick hour tour of the city. We enjoyed it so much we didn't hop off till it was finished.

It took us by all the major sites in the city, including the Millenium Center, a large concert hall with restaurants and shopping. Can you see it didn't rain again? We were sad to have to carry around umbrellas all day when the weather was so perfect!

We hopped off back where we started at the Cardiff Castle. Like many of the castles here, it has been through a number of iterations, starting in Roman times as a fortification.

Renovations in the 19th century included fanciful animals around the outside gates.

The inside grounds were lovely and green. The majority of the castle today was restored by a coal magnate named Bute, who was at one time the richest man in the world. Much of Cardiff is named after him.

Inside there is an old keep with a moat around it.

From the top of the keep there were great views of the city.

We hopped back on the bus to see Cardiff Bay. It reminded me of Baltimore, in that it was once purely industrial, and has now been beautified with restaurants and shopping. We enjoyed lunch overlooking the water.

We decided to take a walk along the "barrage," a stretch of land enclosing the bay.

In order to insure that the bay always has water, they have a lock system at the end of the barrage. This apparently was somewhat controversial, as it may less hospitable for marsh birds and animals, and more hospitible to fresh water fauna. However, from an asthetic sense, it looks much nicer than a bunch of mud when you're walking along the bay.

We walked back to the hotel through the beautiful Sophia Gardens with all its flowers in bloom. I keep thinking it is too early in the season for so many flowers to be in bloom, but apparently, the climate here is much easier on plants than one would think. Maybe it's the long northern days. We're enjoying them, as we rarely get to bed before midnight.

By the time we got home to our hotel at 5:30 p.m. we had already logged over 20,000 steps. We were tempted to stay home, but we would have missed the highlight of our entire trip if we had.
We had heard Wales was famous for men's choral music. We asked at the information booth if there was a rehearsal in Cardiff we could visit. They told us the Cardiff Arms Park Male Choir would meet at 7:30 p.m. behind the Rugby stadium. We were able to sit in the back and soak in the sound of 45 males voices singing in 4 part harmony! It was so moving! They have most of their music memorized, but learn new songs every year for a festival of male choirs in Royal Albert Hall.

During the break we met some of the men, who were so welcoming and fun. The last song they sang was a tribute to us, who came all the way from America to see them. It was a beautiful arrangement of Dixie and The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Ed and I were both in tears by the end.

I did get a recording of them earlier in the rehearsal singing an Irish song, The Fields of Athenry. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. It was more than worth the extra walk this evening. We ended with almost 23,000 steps, and a giant smile on our faces.

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